Given the circumstances of this unconventional past year, the NIU 2021 NFL Draft class is a one-man wrecking crew this year. All-Mac tight end Daniel Crawford elected to forgo his final year of eligibility to bet on himself and enter the draft.
Crawford is an above-average blocker, always finds a way to get open, and possesses great hands plus a killer mindset between the lines. He can attack all three levels of a defense, as seen on his highlight reel and certified on his pro day this spring when the 6-foot-2, 242 lb tight end clocked an impressive 4.65 40-yard dash. Crawford finished his career in DeKalb with 65 receptions, 691 yards, three touchdowns, and a 10.6 YPC average.
Meet The Prospect
One of the senior leaders for the Huskies in 2020, Crawford is a versatile pass-catcher who can line up in-line, out wide, in the slot, or even in the backfield. Crawford also logged plenty of time playing on special teams units due to his physical nature of play. He can create on his own in the open field and tends to add chunks of yards after the catch.
I was a huge fan of Crawford's blocking, specifically his down-field blocking, as he has the speed to get to the next level quickly. Crawford's ability to do a variety of things on the field and to do them at a high level will ultimately determine where he lands in this year's NFL Draft. Crawford is also a standup locker room guy and a natural-born leader.
The value in the late rounds of the NFL Draft and with UDFA's in my eyes is for 'gadget guys', and I can see that being Crawford's strongest ally this weekend. The NIU product was simply born to be a football player and gets the job done by any means necessary.
As for team fits, I could see the 49ers, Ravens, Colts, Packers, Bears, Lions, or Bengals as potential landing spots. It wouldn't be entirely surprising to see Crawford catapulted into a role that entails catching passes out of the backfield in the fullback role, lining up in the slot, and running the seam route. The latter of those skills is his best in my opinion. Crawford also excels at inline setups that result in 5-10-yard gains on a sideline out. He simply does it all and it will be interesting to see how he is used at the next level.
Daniel Crawford will likely hear his name called on Day 3 or shortly after the draft finishes as it becomes an arms race to sign the best Undrafted Free Agents. Regardless, I project Crawford to be competing for an NFL roster spot come fall time, now it's just a question of where the next stop on his journey is.
The Huskies On Tap crew had a chance to sit down for a conversation with Crawford following his senior season. That podcast episode can be found right here:
Daniel Crawford embodies everything that NIU is about, and now we have the opportunity to see him make the jump to the NFL as the draft approaches.